By Wendy Corr, Ellen Fike and Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
An out-of-control vehicle on a Wyoming highway nearly hit a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper on Wednesday as most of the state shivered through cold temperatures and snow left by a winter storm.
The storm forced the closure of sections of both Interstate 80 and 25 and the Wyoming Highway Patrol posted the video on its Facebook page to urge drivers to take care on the sections of the highway that remained open.
“One of our troopers recorded this video while working a crash on the Interstate. Please slow down, use caution, and plan ahead,” the department said.
The storm expected to bring up to 1 foot of snow to some lower elevations of the state stretched from Cody to Cheyenne on Wednesday, bringing with it strong winds that forced the closure of the highways.
The storm came as no surprise for the National Weather Service, whose forecasters had predicted the blast of wintery weather.
“We’re seeing the snowfall amounts that we’ve expected so far,” said Joshua Rowe, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Riverton. “The snow is lingering a bit longer up in Cody, and also in the Wind River Basin, as this cold arctic air has now moved in and hit the Absaroka Mountains and the Wind River Mountains and has gotten stuck up against that.”
Rowe said the snow in the central part of the state had stopped by Wednesday afternoon, for the most part.
However, before moving on, the storm left about 5 inches of snow in the Cody area.
The storm also left cold temperatures in its wake, with overnight lows expected to fall below zero.
“Since that arctic front has moved south of the Bighorn Basin and the Wind River Basin, it’s kind of stalled out along the Fremont and Sweetwater County line,” Rowe said. “Areas west of that are staying warm for now. They’ll start to drop though, especially overnight.”
The southern portion of the state also got hit with snow throughout Wednesday, with Cheyenne picking up anywhere from 3 to 5 inches by late in the day, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Rob Cox.
Torrington received around 4 inches of snow, while Wheatland was buried under about 9 inches.
Cox said another couple of inches would fall before the end of the night Wednesday.
“People should anticipate the snow to taper off late Wednesday, but it will be back again Thursday morning,” Cox said.
He said another couple of inches of snow could fall again Thursday, meaning that much of the southern part of the state could be buried in anywhere from 6 inches to 1 foot of snow by noon Thursday.
The meteorologist added that the wind chill in the Cheyenne area overnight Wednesday would be brutal, dropping to 5 to 20 degrees below zero.
In his Wednesday forecast, Wyoming meteorologist Don Day said it would be an “arctic surge” over the next 36 hours in Wyoming, making travel dangerous and conditions hazardous for livestock.
The storm forced the closure of Interstate 80 from Cheyenne to Rawlins and from Granger to Evanston, while Interstate 25 was closed from Cheyenne to Douglas.
As brisk winds continued to push snow across the interstate highways, road users predicted it could be a while before traffic would be moving normally again.
“I think it’s safe to say that all major roads in Wyoming will be closed for the next three days,” one commenter wrote on Wyoming Road and Weather Conditions Reports Updates” Facebook page.
As roads began closing Wednesday morning, reports of accidents along major highways began to surface on Facebook.
Accidents included an incident in which a semi-trailer hit a horse trailer on Interstate 80 east of Rawlins and one in which a Federal Express truck hit the back of a semi near Sinclair.
Others Facebook posts warned of multiple slide offs and stalled semis in the Bridger Valley section of I–80.
Between 1 a.m. Tuesday and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Wyoming Highway Patrol reported 29 accidents on I80 and four more on 125. Of those, five resulted in injuries, according to WHP Spokesperson Sgt. Jeremy Beck.
Beck said that the storm had initially been centralized in one area and slowly crept across the state with multiple highway and road closures throughout the day.